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|Author||David Hackett Fischer|
|Subject||U.S. social history|
|Publisher||Oxford University Press|
Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America is a 1989 book by David Hackett Fischer that details the folkways of four groups of people who moved from distinct regions of Great Britain (Albion) to the United States. The argument is that the culture of each of the groups persisted, to provide the basis for the modern United States. Fischer explains "the origins and stability of a social system which for two centuries has remained stubbornly democratic in its politics, capitalist in its economy, libertarian in its laws and individualist in its society and pluralistic in its culture." Fischer describes Albion's Seed as a modified Teutonic germ theory within the framework of the Frontier Thesis and the migration model.
The four migrations are discussed in the four main chapters of the book:
Fischer includes satellite peoples such as Welsh, Scots, Irish, Dutch, French, Germans, Italians and a treatise on black slaves in South Carolina. Fischer covers voting patterns and dialects of speech in four regions that span from their Atlantic colonial base to the Pacific.
Fischer remarks on his own connective feelings between the Chesapeake and Southern England in Albion's Seed but attempts to flesh that out in Bound Away: Virginia and the Westward Movement, a corollary of his work in the book.
Fischer states that the book's purpose is to examine the complex cultural processes at work within the four folkways during the time period. Albion's Seed argues, "The legacy of four British folkways in early America remains the most powerful determinant of a voluntary society in the United States."
The term "folkways" was originally conceived of by William Graham Sumner, a 19th-century American sociologist. Sumner's treatise Folkways: A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals posits:
"The folkways are habits of the individual and customs of the society which arise from efforts to satisfy needs; they are intertwined with goblinism and demonism and primitive notions of luck (sec. 6), and so they win traditional authority. Then they become regulative for succeeding generations and take on the character of a social force. They arise no one knows whence or how. They grow as if by the play of internal life energy. They can be modified, but only to a limited extent, by the purposeful efforts of men. In time they lose power, decline, and die, or are transformed. While they are in vigor they very largely control individual and social undertakings, and they produce and nourish ideas of world philosophy and life policy. Yet they are not organic or material. They belong to a superorganic system of relations, conventions, and institutional arrangements."
Fischer describes his modified application of the folkways concept as "the normative structure of values, customs and meanings that exist in any culture," which rise from social and intellectual origins. More specifically, Fischer's definition of folkways are that they "are often highly persistent, but they are never static. Even where they have acquired the status of a tradition they are not necessarily very old. Folkways are constantly in the process of creation, even in our own time."
Each of the four distinct folkways is comparatively described and defined in the following terms: